LITTLE JOURNEYS TO THE HOMES OF THE GREAT, VOLUME 7
Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Orators
PERICLES MARK ANTONY SAVONAROLA MARTIN LUTHER EDMUND BURKE WILLIAM PITT JEAN PAUL MARAT ROBERT INGERSOLL PATRICK HENRY STARR KING HENRY WARD BEECHER WENDELL PHILLIPS
When we agreed, O Aspasia! in the beginning of our loves, to communicate our thoughts by writing, even while we were both in Athens, and when we had many reasons for it, we little foresaw the more powerful one that has rendered it necessary of late. We never can meet again: the laws forbid it, and love itself enforces them. Let wisdom be heard by you as imperturbably, and affection as authoritatively, as ever; and remember that the sorrow of Pericles can rise but from the bosom of Aspasia. There is only one word of tenderness we could say, which we have not said oftentimes before; and there is no consolation in it. The happy never say, and never hear said, farewell.
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And now at the close of my day, when every light is dim and every guest departed, let me own that these wane before me, remembering, as I do in the pride and fulness of my heart, that Athens confided her glory, and Aspasia her happiness, to me.
Have I been a faithful guardian? Do I resign them to the custody of the gods, undiminished and unimpaired? Welcome then, welcome, my last hour! After enjoying for so great a number of years, in my public and private life, what I believe has never been the lot of any other, I now extend my hand to the urn, and take without reluctance or hesitation that which is the lot of all.
—Pericles to Aspasia
Once upon a day there was a grocer who lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. The grocer's name being Heinrich Schliemann, his nationality can be inferred; and as for pedigree, it is enough to state that his ancestors did not land at either Plymouth or Jamestown. However, he was an American citizen.
Now this grocer made much moneys, for he sold groceries as were, and had a feed-barn, a hay-scales, a sommer-garten and a lunch-counter. In fact, his place of business was just the kind you would expect a strenuous man by the name of Schliemann to keep.
Soon Schliemann had men on the road, and they sold groceries as far west as Peoria and as far east as Xenia.
Schliemann grew rich, and the opening up of Schliemann's Division, where town lots were sold at auction, and Anheuser-Busch played an important part, helped his bank-balance not a little.
Schliemann grew rich: and the gentle reader being clairvoyant, now sees Schliemann weighed on his own hay-scales—and wanting everything in sight—tipping the beam at part of a ton. The expectation is that Schliemann will evolve into a large oval satrap, grow beautifully boastful and sublimely reminiscent, representing his Ward in the Common Council until pudge plus prunes him off in his prime.
But this time the reader is wrong: Schliemann was tall, slender and reserved, also taciturn. Groceries were not the goal. In fact, he had interests outside of Indianapolis, that few knew anything about. When Schliemann was thirty-eight years old he was worth half a million dollars; and instead of making his big business still bigger, he was studying Greek. It was a woman and Eros taught Schliemann Greek, and this was so letters could be written—dictated by Eros, who they do say is an awful dictator—that would not be easily construed by Hoosier "hoi polloi." Together the woman and Schliemann studied the history of Hellas.
About the year Eighteen Hundred Sixty-eight Schliemann turned all of his Indiana property into cash; and in April, Eighteen Hundred Seventy, he was digging in the hill of Hissarlik, Troad. The same faculty of thoroughness, and the ability to captain a large business—managing men to his own advantage, and theirs—made his work in Greece a success. Schliemann's discoveries at Mount Athos, Mycenae, Ithaca and Tiryns turned a searchlight upon prehistoric Hellas and revolutionized prevailing ideas concerning the rise and the development of Greek Art.
His Trojan treasures were presented to the city of Berlin. Had Schliemann given his priceless findings to Indianapolis, it would have made that city a Sacred Mecca for all the Western World—set it apart, and caused James Whitcomb Riley to be a mere side-show, inept, inconsequent, immaterial and insignificant. But alas! Indianapolis never knew Schliemann when he lived there—they thought he was a Dutch Grocer! And all the honors went to Benjamin Harrison, Governor Morton and Thomas A. Hendricks.
If the Indiana Novelists would cease their dalliance with Dame Fiction and turn to Truth, writing a simple record of the life of Schliemann, it would eclipse in strangeness all the Knighthoods that ever were in Flower, and Ben Hur would get the flag in his Crawfordsville chariot-race for fame.
Berlin gave the freedom of the city to Schliemann; the Emperor of Germany bestowed on him a Knighthood; the University voted him a Ph. D.; Heidelberg made him a D. C. L.; and Saint Petersburg followed with an LL. D.
The value of the treasure, now in the Berlin Museum, found by Schliemann exceeds by far the value of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.
We know, and have always known, who built the Parthenon and crowned the Acropolis; but not until Schliemann had by faith and good works removed the mountain of Hissarlik, did we know that the Troy, of which blind Homer sang, was not a figment of the poet's brain.
Schliemann showed us that a thousand years before the age of Pericles there was a civilization almost as great. Aye! more than this—he showed us that the ancient city of Troy was built upon the ruins of a city that throve and pulsed with life and pride, a thousand years or more before Thetis, the mother of Achilles, held her baby by the heel and dipped him in the River Styx.
Schliemann passed to the Realm of Shade in Eighteen Hundred Ninety, and is buried at Athens, in the Ceramicus, in a grave excavated by his own hands in a search for the grave of Pericles.
* * * * *
Pericles lived nearly twenty-five centuries ago. The years of his life were sixty-six—during the last thirty-one of which, by popular acclaim, he was the "First Citizen of Athens." The age in which he lived is called the Age of Pericles.
Shakespeare died less than three hundred years ago, and although he lived in a writing age, and every decade since has seen a plethora of writing men, yet writing men are now bandying words as to whether he lived at all.
Between us and Pericles lie a thousand years of night, when styli were stilled, pens forgotten, chisels thrown aside, brushes were useless, and oratory was silent, dumb. Yet we know the man Pericles quite as well as the popular mind knows George Washington, who lived but yesterday, and with whom myth and fable have already played their part.
Thucydides, a contemporary of Pericles, who outlived him by nearly half a century, wrote his life. Fortunately, Thucydides was big enough himself to take the measure of a great man. At least seven other contemporaries, whose works we have in part, wrote also of the First Citizen.
To Plutarch are we indebted for much of our knowledge of Pericles, and fortunately we are in position to verify most of Plutarch's gossipy chronicles.
The vanishing-point of time is seen in that Plutarch refers to Pericles as an "ancient"; and through the mist of years it hardly seems possible that between Plutarch and Pericles is a period of five hundred years. Plutarch resided in Greece when Paul was at Athens, Corinth and other Grecian cities. Later, Plutarch was at Miletus, about the time Saint Paul stopped there on his way to Rome to be tried for blasphemy—the same offense committed by Socrates, and a sin charged, too, against Pericles. Nature punishes for most sins, but sacrilege, heresy and blasphemy are not in her calendar, so man has to look after them. Plutarch visited Patmos where Saint John was exiled and where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Plutarch was also at "Malta by the Sea," where Saint Paul was shipwrecked; but so far as we know, he never heard of Paul nor of Him of whom, upon Mars Hill, Paul preached.
Paul bears testimony that at Athens the people spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. They were curious as children, and had to be diverted and amused. They were the same people that Pericles had diverted, amused and used—used without their knowing it, five hundred years before.
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The gentle and dignified Anaxagoras, who abandoned all his property to the State that he might be free to devote himself to thought, was the first and best teacher of Pericles. Under his tutorship—better, the companionship of this noble man—Pericles acquired that sublime self-restraint, that intellectual breadth, that freedom from superstition, which marked his character.
Superstitions are ossified metaphors, and back of every religious fallacy lies a truth. The gods of Greece were once men who fought their valiant fight and lived their day; the supernatural is the natural not yet understood—it is the natural seen through the mist of one, two, three, ten or twenty-five hundred years, when things loom large and out of proportion—and all these things were plain to Pericles. Yet he kept his inmost belief to himself, and let the mob believe whate'er it list. Morley's book on "Compromise" would not have appealed much to Pericles—his answer would have been, "A man must do what he can, and not what he would." Yet he was no vulgar demagog truckling to the caprices of mankind, nor was he a tyrant who pitted his will against the many and subdued by a show of arms. For thirty years he kept peace at home, and if this peace was once or twice cemented by an insignificant foreign war, he proved thereby that he was abreast of Napoleon, who said, "The cure for civil dissension is war abroad." Pericles stands alone in his success as a statesman. It was Thomas Brackett Reed, I believe, who said, "A statesman is a politician who is dead."
And this is a sober truth, for, to reveal the statesman, perspective is required.
Pericles built and maintained a State, and he did it, as every statesman must, by recognizing and binding to him ability. It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test. While Pericles lived, there also lived AEschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Pythagoras, Socrates, Herodotus, Zeno, Hippocrates, Pindar, Empedocles and Democritus. Such a galaxy of stars has never been seen before nor since—unless we have it now—and Pericles was their one central sun.
Pericles was great in many ways—great as an orator, musician, philosopher, politician, financier, and great and wise as a practical leader. Lovers of beauty are apt to be dreamers, but this man had the ability to plan, devise, lay out work and carry it through to a successful conclusion. He infused others with his own animation, and managed to set a whole cityful of lazy people building a temple grander far in its rich simplicity than the world had ever seen. By his masterly eloquence and the magic of his presence, Pericles infused the Greeks with a passion for beauty and a desire to create. And no man can inspire others with the desire to create who has not taken sacred fire from the altar of the gods. The creative genius is the highest gift vouchsafed to man, and wherein man is likest God. The desire to create does not burn the heart of the serf, and only free people can respond to the greatest power ever given to any First Citizen.
In beautifying the city there was a necessity for workers in stone, brass, iron, ivory, gold, silver and wood. Six thousand of the citizens were under daily pay as jurors, to be called upon if their services were needed; most of the other male adults were soldiers. Through the genius of Pericles and his generals these men were set to work as masons, carpenters, braziers, goldsmiths, painters and sculptors. Talent was discovered where before it was supposed there was none; music found a voice; playwriters discovered actors; actors found an audience; and philosophy had a hearing. A theater was built, carved almost out of solid stone, that seated ten thousand people, and on the stage there was often heard a chorus of a thousand voices. Physical culture developed the perfect body so that the Greek forms of that time are today the despair of the human race. The recognition of the sacredness of the temple of the soul was taught as a duty; and to make the body beautiful by right exercise and by right life became a science. The sculptor must have models approaching perfection, and the exhibition of the sculptor's work, together with occasional public religious processions of naked youths, kept before the people ideals superb and splendid.
For several years everybody worked, carrying stone, hewing, tugging, lifting, carving. Up the steep road that led to the Acropolis was a constant procession carrying materials. So infused was everybody and everything with the work that a story is told of a certain mule that had hauled a cart in the endless procession. This worthy worker, "who was sustained by neither pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity," finally became galled and lame and was turned out to die. But the mule did not die—nothing dies until hope dies. That mule pushed his way back into the throng and up and down he went, filled and comforted with the thought that he was doing his work—and all respected him and made way. If this story was invented by a comic poet of the time, devised by an enemy of Pericles, we see its moral, and think no less of Pericles. To inspire a mule with a passion for work and loyalty in a great cause is no mean thing.
So richly endowed was Pericles that he was able to appreciate the best not only in men, but in literature, painting, sculpture, music, architecture and life as well. In him there was as near a perfect harmony as we have ever seen—in him all the various lines of Greek culture united, and we get the perfect man. Under the right conditions there might be produced a race of such men—but such a race never lived in Greece and never could. Greece was a splendid experiment. Greece was God's finest plaything—devised to show what He could do.
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I have sometimes thought that comeliness of feature and fine physical proportions were a handicap to an orator. If a man is handsome, it is quite enough—let him act as chairman and limit his words to stating the pleasure he has in introducing the speaker. No man in a full-dress suit can sway a thousand people to mingled mirth and tears, play upon their emotions and make them remember the things they have forgotten, drive conviction home, and change the ideals of a lifetime in an hour. The man in spotless attire, with necktie mathematically adjusted, is an usher. If too much attention to dress is in evidence, we at once conclude that the attire is first in importance and the message secondary.
The orator is a man we hate, fear or love, and are curious to see. His raiment is incidental; the usher's clothes are vital. The attire of the usher may reveal the man—but not so the speaker. If our first impressions are disappointing, so much the better, provided the man is a man.
The best thing in Winston Churchill's book, "The Crisis," is his description of Lincoln's speech at Freeport. Churchill got that description from a man who was there. Where the issue was great, Lincoln was always at first a disappointment. His unkempt appearance, his awkwardness, his shrill voice—these things made people laugh, then they were ashamed because they laughed, then they pitied, next followed surprise, and before they knew it, they were being wrapped 'round by words so gracious, so fair, so convincing, so free from prejudice, so earnest and so charged with soul that they were taken captive, bound hand and foot.
Talmage, who knew his business, used to work this element of disappointment as an art. When the event was important and he wished to make a particularly good impression, he would begin in a very low, sing-song voice, and in a monotonous manner, dealing in trite nothings for five minutes or more. His angular form would seem to take on more angles and his homely face would grow more homely, if that were possible—disappointment would spread itself over the audience like a fog; people would settle back in their pews, sigh and determine to endure. And then suddenly the speaker would glide to the front, his great chest would fill, his immense mouth would open and there would leap forth a sentence like a thunderbolt.
Visitors at "The Temple," London, will recall how Joseph Parker works the matter of surprise, and often piques curiosity by beginning his sermon to two thousand people in a voice that is just above a whisper.
One of the most impressive orators of modern times was John P. Altgeld, yet to those who heard him for the first time his appearance was always a disappointment. Altgeld was so earnest and sincere, so full of his message that he scorned all the tricks of oratory, but still he must have been aware that his insignificant form and commonplace appearance were a perfect foil for the gloomy, melancholy and foreboding note of earnestness that riveted his words into a perfect whole.
Over against the type of oratory represented by Altgeld, America has produced one orator who fascinated first by his personal appearance, next exasperated by his imperturbable calm, then disappointed through a reserve that nothing could baffle, and finally won through all three, more than by his message. This man was Roscoe Conkling, he of the Hyperion curls and Jovelike front.
The chief enemy of Conkling (and he had a goodly list) was James G. Blaine, who once said of him, "He wins, like Pericles, by his grand and god-like manner—and knows it." In appearance and manner Pericles and Conkling had much in common, but there the parallel stops.
Pericles appeared only on great occasions. We are told that in twenty years he was seen on the streets of Athens only once a year, and that was in going from his house to the Assembly where he made his annual report of his stewardship. He never made himself cheap. His speeches were prepared with great care and must have been memorized. Before he spoke he prayed the gods that not a single unworthy word might escape his lips. We are told that his manner was so calm, so well poised, that during his speech his mantle was never disarranged.
In his speeches Pericles never championed an unpopular cause—he never led a forlorn hope—he never flung reasons into the teeth of a mob. His addresses were the orderly, gracious words of eulogy and congratulation. He won the approval of his constituents often against their will, and did the thing he wished to do, without giving offense. Thucydides says his words were like the honey of Hymettus—persuasion sat upon his lips.
No man wins his greatest fame in that to which he has given most of his time; it's his side issue, the thing he does for recreation, his heart's play-spell, that gives him immortality. There is too much tension in that where his all is staked. But in his leisure the pressure is removed, his heart is free and judgment may for the time take a back seat—there was where Dean Swift picked his laurels. Although Pericles was the greatest orator of his day, yet his business was not oratory. Public speaking was to him merely incidental and accidental. He doubtless would have avoided it if he could—he was a man of affairs, a leader of practical men, and he was a teacher. He held his place by a suavity, gentleness and gracious show of reasons unparalleled. In oratory it is manner that wins, not words. One virtue Pericles had in such generous measure that the world yet takes note of it, and that is his patience. If interrupted in a speech, he gave way and never answered sharply, nor used his position to the other's discomfiture. In his speeches there was no challenge, no vituperation, no irony, no arraignment. He assumed that everybody was honest, everybody just, and that all men were doing what they thought was best for themselves and others. His enemies were not rogues—simply good men who were temporarily in error. He impeached no man's motives; but went much out of his way to give due credit.
On one occasion, early in his public career, he was berated by a bully in the streets. Pericles made no answer, but went quietly about his business. The man followed him, continuing his abuse—followed him clear to the door of his house. It being dark, Pericles ordered one of his servants to procure a torch, light the man home and see that no harm befell him.
The splendor of his intellect and the sublime strength of his will are shown in that small things did not distress him. He was building the Parthenon and making Athens the wonder of the world: this was enough.
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The Greeks at their best were barbarians; at their worst, slaves. The average intelligence among them was low; and the idea that they were such a wonderful people has gained a foothold simply because they are so far off. The miracle of it all is that such sublimely great men as Pericles, Phidias, Socrates and Anaxagoras should have sprung from such a barbaric folk. The men just named were as exceptional as was Shakespeare in the reign of Elizabeth. That the masses had small appreciation of these men is proven in the fact that Phidias and Anaxagoras died in prison, probably defeating their persecutors by suicide. Socrates drank the cup of hemlock, and Pericles, the one man who had made Athens immortal, barely escaped banishment and death by diverting attention from himself to a foreign war. The charge against both Pericles and Phidias was that of "sacrilege." They said that Pericles and Phidias should be punished because they had placed their pictures on a sacred shield.
Humanity's job-lot was in the saddle, and sought to wound Pericles by attacking his dearest friends: so his old teacher, Anaxagoras, was made to die; his beloved helper, Phidias, the greatest sculptor the world has ever known, suffered a like fate; and his wife, Aspasia, was humiliated by being dragged to a public trial, where the eloquence of Pericles alone saved her from a malefactor's death; and it is said that this was the only time when Pericles lost his "Olympian calm."
The son of Pericles and Aspasia was one of ten generals executed because they failed to win a certain battle. The scheme of beheading unsuccessful soldiers was not without its advantages, and in some ways is to be commended; but the plan reveals the fact that the Greeks had so little faith in their leaders that the threat of death was deemed necessary to make them do their duty. This son of Pericles was declared illegitimate by law; another law was passed declaring him legitimate: and finally his head was cut off, all as duly provided in the statutes. Doesn't this make us wonder what this world would have been without its lawmakers? The particular offense of Anaxagoras was that he said Jove occasionally sent thunder and lightning with no thought of Athens in mind. The same subject is up for discussion yet, but no special penalty is provided by the State as to conclusions.
The citizens of Greece in the time of Pericles were given over to two things which were enough to damn any individual and any nation—idleness and superstition. The drudgery was done by slaves; the idea that a free citizen should work was preposterous; to be useful was a disgrace. For a time Pericles dissipated their foolish thought, but it kept cropping out. To speak disrespectfully of the gods was to invite death, and the philosophers who dared discuss the powers of Nature or refer to a natural religion were safe only through the fact that their language was usually so garlanded with the flowers of poesy that the people did not comprehend its import.
Very early in the reign of Pericles a present of forty thousand bushels of wheat had been sent from the King of Egypt; at least it was called a present—probably it was an exacted tribute. This wheat was to be distributed among the free citizens of Athens, and accordingly when the cargo arrived there was a fine scramble among the people to show that they were free. Everybody produced a certificate and demanded wheat.
Some time before this Pericles had caused a law to be passed providing that in order to be a citizen a man must be descended from a father and a mother who were both Athenians. This law was aimed directly at Themistocles, the predecessor of Pericles, whose mother was an alien. It is true the mother of Themistocles was an alien, but her son was Themistocles. The law worked and Themistocles was declared a bastardicus and banished.
Before unloading our triremes of wheat, let the fact be stated that laws aimed at individuals are apt to prove boomerangs. "Thee should build no dark cells," said Elizabeth Fry to the King of France, "for thy children may occupy them." Some years after Pericles had caused this law to be passed defining citizenship, he loved a woman who had the misfortune to be born at Miletus. According to his own law the marriage of Pericles to this woman was not legal—she was only his slave, not his wife. So finally Pericles had to go before the people and ask for the repeal of the law that he had made, in order that his own children might be made legitimate. Little men in shovel hats and knee-breeches who hotly fume against the sin of a man marrying his deceased wife's sister are usually men whose wives are not deceased, and have no sisters.
The wheat arrived at the Piraeus, and the citizens jammed the docks. The slaves wore sleeveless tunics. The Greeks were not much given to that absurd plan of cutting off heads—they simply cut off sleeves. This meant that the man was a worker—the rest affected sleeves so long that they could not work, somewhat after the order of the Chinese nobility, who wear their finger-nails so long they can not use their hands. "To kill a bird is to lose it," said Thoreau. "To kill a man is to lose him," said the Greeks.
"You should have your sleeves cut off," said some of the citizens to others, with a bit of acerbity, as they crowded the docks for their wheat.
The talk increased—it became louder.
Finally it was proposed that the distribution of wheat should be deferred until every man had proved his pedigree.
The ayes had it.
The result was that on close scrutiny five thousand supposed citizens had a blot on their 'scutcheon. The property of these five thousand men was immediately confiscated and the men sold into slavery. The total number of free men, women and children in the city of Athens was about seventy-five thousand, and of the slaves or helots about the same, making the total population of the city about one hundred fifty thousand.
We have heard so much of "the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome," that we are, at times, apt to think the world is making progress backward. But let us all stand erect and lift up our hearts in thankfulness that we live in the freest country the world has ever known. Wisdom is not monopolized by a few; power is not concentrated in the hands of a tyrant; knowledge need not express itself in cipher; to work is no longer a crime or a disgrace.
We have superstition yet, but it is toothless: we can say our say without fear of losing our heads or our sleeves. We may lose a few customers, and some subscribers may cancel, but we are not in danger of banishment; and that attenuated form of ostracism which consists in neglecting to invite the offender to a four-o'clock tea has no terrors.
Bigotry is abroad, but it has no longer the power to throttle science; the empty threat of future punishment and the offer of reward are nothing to us, since we perceive they are offered by men who haven't these things to give. The idea of war and conquest is held by many, but concerning it we voice our thoughts and write our views; and the fact that we perceive and point out what we believe are fallacies, and brand the sins of idleness and extravagance, is proof that light is breaking in the East. If we can profit by the good that was in Greece and avoid the bad, we have the raw material here, if properly used, to make her glory fade into forgetfulness by comparison.
Do not ask that the days of Greece shall come again—we now know that to live by the sword is to die by the sword, and the nation that builds on conquest builds on sand. We want no splendor fashioned by slaves—no labor driven by the lash, nor lured on through superstitious threat of punishment and offer of reward: we recognize that to own slaves is to be one.
Ten men built Athens. The passion for beauty that these men had may be ours, their example may inspire us, but to live their lives—we will none of them! Our lives are better—the best time the world has ever seen is now; and a better yet is sure to be. The night is past and gone—the light is breaking in the East!
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Womanhood was not held in high esteem in Greece. To be sure, barbaric Sparta made a bold stand for equality, and almost instituted a gynecocracy, but the usual idea was that a woman's opinion was not worth considering. Hence the caricaturists of the day made sly sport of the love of Pericles and Aspasia. These two were intellectual equals, comrades; and that all of Pericles' public speeches were rehearsed to her, as his enemies averred, is probably true. "Aspasia has no time for society; she is busy writing a speech for her lord," said Aristophanes. Socrates used to visit Aspasia, and he gave it out as his opinion that Aspasia wrote the sublime ode delivered by Pericles on the occasion of his eulogy on the Athenian dead. The popular mind could not possibly comprehend how a great man could defer to a woman in important matters, and she be at once his wife, counselor, comrade, friend. Socrates, who had been taught by antithesis, understood it.
The best minds of our day behold that Pericles was as sublimely great in his love-affairs as he was in his work as architect and statesman. Life is a whole, and every man works his love up into life—his life is revealed in his work, and his love is mirrored in his life. For myself I can not see why the Parthenon may not have been a monument to a great and sublime passion, and the statue of Athena, its chief ornament, be the sacred symbol of a great woman greatly loved.
So far as can be found, the term of "courtesan" applied by the mob to Aspasia came from the fact that she was not legally married to Pericles, and for no other reason. That their union was not legal was owing to the simple fact that Pericles, early in his career, had caused a law to be passed making marriage between an Athenian and an alien morganatic: very much as in England, for a time, the children of a marriage where one parent was a Catholic and the other a Protestant were declared by the State to be illegitimate. The act of Pericles in spreading a net for his rival and getting caught in it himself is a beautiful example of the truth of a bucolic maxim, "Chickens most generally come home to roost."
Thucydides says that for thirty years Pericles never dined away from home but once. He kept out of crowds, and was very seldom seen at public gatherings. The idea held by many was that a man who thus preferred his home and the society of a woman was either silly or bad, or both. Socrates, for instance, never went home as long as there was any other place to go, which reminds us of a certain American statesman who met a friend on the street, the hour being near midnight. "Where are you going, Bill?" asked the statesman. "Home," said Bill. "What!" said the statesman, "haven't you any place to go?" The Athenian men spent their spare time in the streets and marketplaces—this was to them what the daily paper is to us.
In his home life Pericles was simple, unpretentious and free from all extravagance. No charge could ever be brought against him that he was wasting the public money for himself—the beauty he materialized was for all. He held no court, had no carriages, equipage, nor guards; wore no insignia of office, and had no title save that of "First Citizen" given him by the people. He is the supreme type of a man who, though holding no public office, yet ruled like a monarch, and, best of all, ruled his own spirit. There is no government so near perfect as that of an absolute monarchy—where the monarch is wise and just.
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Greece is a beautiful dream. Dreams do not endure, yet they are a part of life, no less than the practical deeds of the day. The glory of Greece could not last; its limit was thirty years—one generation. The splendor of Athens was built on tribute and conquest, and the lesson of it all lies in this: For thirty years Pericles turned the revenues of war into art, beauty and usefulness.
England spent more in her vain efforts to subjugate two little South African republics than Pericles spent in making Athens the Wonder of the World. If Chamberlain and Salisbury had been the avatars of Pericles and Phidias, they would have used the nine hundred millions of dollars wasted in South Africa, and the services of those three hundred thousand men, and done in England, aye! or done in South Africa, a work of harmony and undying beauty such as this tired earth had not seen since Phidias wrought and Pindar sang.
And another thing, the thirty thousand Englishmen sacrificed to the God of War, and the ten thousand Boers, dead in a struggle for what they thought was right, would now nearly all be alive and well, rejoicing in the contemplation of a harmony unparalleled and unsurpassed.
During the last year the United States has appropriated four hundred million dollars for war and war-apparatus. Since Eighteen Hundred Ninety-seven we have expended about three times the sum named for war and waste. If there had been among us a Pericles who could have used this vast treasure in irrigating the lands of the West and building Manual-Training Schools where boys and girls would be taught to do useful work and make beautiful things, we could have made ancient Greece pale into forgetfulness beside the beauty we would manifest.
When Pericles came into power there was a union of the Greek States, formed with intent to stand against Persia, the common foe. A treasure had been accumulated at Delos by Themistocles, the predecessor of Pericles, to use in case of emergency.
The ambition of Themistocles was to make Greece commercially supreme. She must be the one maritime power of the world. All the outlying islands of the AEgean Sea were pouring their tithes into Athens and Delos that they might have protection from the threatening hordes of Persia.
Pericles saw that war was not imminent, and under the excuse of increased safety he got the accumulated treasure moved from Delos to Athens. The amount of this emergency fund, to us, would be insignificant—a mere matter of, say, two million dollars. Pericles used this money, or a portion of it at least, for beautifying Athens, and he did his wondrous work by maintaining a moderate war-tax in a time of peace, using the revenue for something better than destruction and vaunting pride.
But Pericles could not forever hold out against the mob at Athens and the hordes abroad. He might have held the hordes at bay, but disloyalty struck at him at home—his best helpers were sacrificed to superstition—his beloved helper Phidias was dead. War came—the population from the country flocked within the walls of Athens for protection. The pent-up people grew restless, sick; pestilence followed, and in ministering to their needs, trying to infuse courage into his whimpering countrymen, bearing up under the disloyalty of his own sons, planning to meet the lesser foe without, Pericles grew aweary, Nature flagged, and he was dead.
From his death dates the decline of Greece—she has been twenty-five centuries dying and is not dead even yet. To Greece we go for consolation, and in her armless and headless marbles we see the perfect type of what men and women yet may be. Copies of her Winged Victory are upon ten thousand pedestals pointing us the way.
England has her Chamberlain, Salisbury, Lord Bobs, Buller, and Kitchener; America has her rough-riders who bawl and boast, her financiers, and her promoters. In every city of America there is a Themistocles who can organize a Trust of Delos and make the outlying islands pay tithes and tribute through an indirect tax on this and that. In times of alleged danger all Kansans flock to arms and offer their lives in the interest of outraged humanity.
These things are well, but where is the Pericles who can inspire men to give in times of peace what all are willing to give in the delirium of war—that is to say, themselves?
We can Funstonize men into fighting-machines; we can set half a nation licking stamps for strife; but where is the Pericles who can infuse the populace into paving streets, building good roads, planting trees, constructing waterways across desert sands, and crowning each rock-ribbed hill with a temple consecrated to Love and Beauty! We take our mules from their free prairies, huddle them in foul transports and send them across wide oceans to bleach their bones upon the burning veldt; but where is the man who can inspire our mules with a passion to do their work, add their mite to building a temple and follow the procession unled, undriven—with neither curb nor lash—happy in the fond idea that they are a part of all the seething life that throbs, pulses and works for a Universal Good!
England is today a country tied with crape. On the lintels of her doorposts there linger yet the marks of sprinkled blood; the guttural hurrahs of her coronation are mostly evoked by beer; behind it all are fears and tears and a sorrow that will not be comforted.
"I never caused a single Athenian to wear mourning," truthfully said Pericles with his dying breath. Can the present prime ministers of earth say as much? That is the kind of leader America most needs today—a man who can do his work and make no man, woman or child wear crape.
The time is ripe for him—we await his coming.
We are sick and tired of plutocrats who struggle and scheme but for themselves; we turn with loathing from the concrete selfishness of Newport and Saratoga; the clatter of arms and the blare of battle-trumpets in time of peace are hideous to our ears—we want no wealth gained from conquest and strife.
Ours is the richest country the world has ever known. Greece was a beggar compared with Iowa and Illinois, where nothing but honest effort is making small cities great. But we need a Pericles who shall inspire us to work for truth, harmony and beauty—a beauty wrought for ourselves—and a love that shall perform such miracles that they will minister to the millions yet unborn. We need a Pericles! We need a Pericles!
It is not long, my Antony, since, with these hands, I buried thee. Alas! they were then free, but thy Cleopatra is now a prisoner, attended by guard, lest, in the transports of her grief, she should disfigure this captive body, which is reserved to adorn the triumph over thee. These are the last offerings, the last honors she can pay thee; for she is now to be conveyed to a distant country. Nothing could part us while we lived, but in death we are to be divided. Thou, though a Roman, liest buried in Egypt; and I, an Egyptian, must be interred in Italy, the only favor I shall receive from thy country. Yet, if the Gods of Rome have power or mercy left (for surely those of Egypt have forsaken us), let them not suffer me to be led in living triumph to thy disgrace! No! hide me, hide me with thee in the grave; for life, since thou hast left it, has been misery to me.
The sole surviving daughter of the great King Ptolemy of Egypt, Cleopatra was seventeen years old when her father died.
By his will the King made her joint heir to the throne with her brother Ptolemy, several years her junior. And according to the custom not unusual among royalty at that time, it was provided that Ptolemy should become the husband of Cleopatra.
She was a woman—her brother a child.
She had intellect, ambition, talent. She knew the history of her own country, and that of Assyria, Greece and Rome; and all the written languages of the world were to her familiar. She had been educated by the philosophers, who had brought from Greece the science of Pythagoras and Plato. Her companions had been men—not women, or nurses, or pious, pedantic priests.
Through the veins of her young body pulsed and leaped life plus.
She abhorred the thought of an alliance with her weak-chinned brother; and the ministers of state who suggested another husband, as a compromise, were dismissed with a look. They said she was intractable, contemptuous, unreasonable, and was scheming for the sole possession of the throne. She was not to be diverted even by ardent courtiers who were sent to her, and who lay in wait, ready with amorous sighs—she scorned them all.
Yet she was a woman still, and in her dreams she saw the coming prince.
She was banished from Alexandria.
A few friends followed her, and an army was formed to force from the enemy her rights.
But other things were happening. A Roman army came leisurely drifting in with the tide, and disembarked at Alexandria. The Great Caesar himself was in command—a mere holiday, he said. He had intended to join the land forces of Mark Antony and help crush the rebellious Pompey, but Antony had done the trick alone, and only a few days before, word had come that Pompey was dead.
Caesar knew that civil war was on in Alexandria, and being near he sailed slowly in, sending messengers ahead warning both sides to lay down their arms.
With him was the far-famed invincible Tenth Legion that had ravished Gaul. Caesar wanted to rest his men, and incidentally to reward them. They took possession of the city without a blow.
Cleopatra's troops laid down their arms, but Ptolemy's refused. They were simply chased beyond the walls, and their punishment was for a time deferred.
Caesar took possession of the palace of the King, and his soldiers accommodated themselves in the houses, public buildings and temples as best they could.
Cleopatra asked for a personal interview that she might present her cause. Caesar declined to meet her. He understood the trouble—many such cases he had seen. Claimants for thrones were not new to him. Where two parties quarreled both were right—or wrong—it really mattered little. It is absurd to quarrel—still more foolish to fight. Caesar was a man of peace, and to keep the peace he would appoint one of his generals governor, and make Egypt a Roman colony. In the meantime he would rest a week or two, with the kind permission of the Alexandrians, and work upon his "Commentaries"—no, he would not see either Cleopatra or Ptolemy: any information desired he would get through his trusted emissaries.
In the service of Cleopatra was a Sicilian slave who had been her personal servant since she was a little girl. This man's name was Appolidorus—a man of giant stature and imposing mien. Ten years before his tongue had been torn out as a token that as he was to attend a queen he should tell no secrets.
Appolidorus had but one thought in life, and that was to defend his gracious queen. He slept at the door of Cleopatra's tent, a naked sword at his side, held in his clenched and brawny hand.
And now behold at dusk of day the grim and silent Appolidorus, carrying upon his giant shoulders a large and curious rug, rolled up and tied 'round at either end with ropes. He approaches the palace of the King, and at the guarded gate hands a note to the officer in charge. This note gives information to the effect that a certain patrician citizen of Alexandria, being glad that the gracious Caesar had deigned to visit Egypt, sends him the richest rug that can be woven, done, in fact, by his wife and daughters and held against this day, awaiting Rome's greatest son.
The officer reads the note, and orders a soldier to accept the gift and carry it within—presents were constantly arriving. A sign from the dumb giant makes the soldier stand back—the present is for Caesar and can be delivered only in person. "Lead and I will follow," were the words done in stern pantomime.
The officer laughs, sends the note inside, and the messenger soon returning, signifies that the present is acceptable and the slave bearing it shall be shown in. Appolidorus shifts the burden to the other shoulder, and follows the soldier through the gate, up the marble steps, along the splendid hallway lighted by flaring torches and lined with reclining Roman soldiers.
At a door they pause an instant, there is a whispered word—they enter.
The room is furnished as becomes the room that is the private library of the King of Egypt. In one corner, seated at the table, pen in hand, sits a man of middle age, pale, clean-shaven, with hair close-cropped. His dress is not that of a soldier—it is the flowing, white robe of a Roman Priest. Only one servant attends this man, a secretary, seated near, who rises and explains that the present is acceptable and shall be deposited on the floor.
The pale man at the table looks up, smiles a tired smile, and murmurs in a perfunctory way his thanks.
Appolidorus having laid his burden on the floor, kneels to untie the ropes.
The secretary explains that he need not trouble, pray bear thanks and again thanks to his master—he need not tarry!
The dumb man on his knees neither hears nor heeds.
The rug is unrolled.
From out the roll a woman leaps lightly to her feet—a beautiful young woman of twenty.
She stands there, poised, defiant, gazing at the pale-faced man seated at the table.
He is not surprised—he never was. One might have supposed he received all his visitors in this manner.
"Well?" he says in a quiet way, a half-smile parting his thin lips.
The woman's breast heaves with tumultuous emotion—just an instant. She speaks, and there is no tremor in her tones. Her voice is low, smooth and scarcely audible: "I am Cleopatra."
The man at the desk lays down his pen, leans back and gently nods his head, as much as to say, indulgently, "Yes, my child, I hear—go on!"
"I am Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and I would speak with thee alone."
She paused; then raising one jeweled arm motions to Appolidorus that he shall withdraw. With a similar motion, the man at the desk signifies the same to his astonished secretary.
* * * * *
Appolidorus went down the long hallway, down the stone steps and waited at the outer gate amid the throng of soldiers. They questioned him, gibed him, railed at him, but they got no word in reply.
He waited—he waited an hour, two—and then came a messenger with a note written on a slip of parchment. The words ran thus: "Well-beloved 'Dorus: Veni, vidi, vici! Go fetch my maids, also all of our personal belongings."
* * * * *
Standing alone by the slashed and stiffened corpse of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony says:
"Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever lived in the tide of times."
Caesar had two qualities that mark the man of supreme power: he was gentle and he was firm.
To be gentle, generous, lenient, forgiving, and yet never relinquish the vital thing—this is to be great.
To know when to be generous and when firm—this is wisdom.
The first requisite in ruling others is to rule one's own spirit.
The suavity, moderation, dignity and wise diplomacy of Caesar led him by sure and safe steps from a lowly clerkship to positions of gradually increasing responsibility. At thirty-seven he was elected Pontifex Maximus—the head of the State Religion.
Between Pagan Rome and Christian Paganism there is small choice—all State religions are very much alike. Caesar was Pope: and no State religion since his time has been an improvement on that of Caesar.
In his habits Caesar was ascetic—a scholar by nature. He was tall, slender, and in countenance sad. For the intellect Nature had given him, she had taken toll by cheating him in form and feature. He was deliberate and of few words—he listened in a way that always first complimented the speaker and then disconcerted him.
By birth he was a noble, and by adoption one of the people. He was both plebeian and patrician.
His military experience had been but slight, though creditable, and his public addresses were so few that no one claimed he was an orator. He had done nothing of special importance, and yet the feeling was everywhere that he was the greatest man in Rome. The nobles feared him, trembling at thought of his displeasure. The people loved him—he called them, "My children."
Caesar was head of the Church, but politically there were two other strong leaders in Rome, Pompey and Crassus. These two men were rich, and each was at the head of a large number of followers whom he had armed as militia "for the defense of State." Caesar was poor in purse and could not meet them in their own way even if so inclined. He saw the danger of these rival factions. Strife between them was imminent—street fights were common—and it would require only a spark to ignite the tinder.
Caesar the Pontiff—the man of peace—saw a way to secure safety for the State from these two men who had armed their rival legions to protect it.
To secure this end he would crush them both.
The natural way to do this would have been to join forces with the party he deemed the stronger, and down the opposition. But this done, the leader with whom he had joined forces would still have to be dealt with.
Caesar made peace between Pompey and Crassus by joining with them, forming a Triumvirate.
This was one of the greatest strokes of statecraft ever devised. It made peace at home—averted civil war—cemented rival factions.
When three men join forces, make no mistake—power is never equally divided.
Before the piping times of peace could pall, a foreign war diverted attention from approaching difficulties at home.
The Gauls were threatening—they were always threatening—war could be had with them any time by just pushing out upon them. To the south, Sicily, Greece, Persia and Egypt had been exploited—fame and empire lay in the dim and unknown North.
Only a Caesar could have known this. He had his colleagues make him governor of Gaul. Gaul was a troublesome place to be, and they were quite willing he should go there. For a priest to go among the fighting Gauls—they smiled and stroked their chins! Gaul had definite boundaries on the south—the Rubicon marked the line—but on the north it was without limit. Real-estate owners own as high in the air and as deep in the earth as they wish to go. Caesar alone guessed the greatness of Gaul.
Under pretense of protecting Rome from a threatened invasion he secured the strongest legions of Pompey and Crassus. Combining them into one army he led them northward to such conquest and victory as the world had never before seen.
It is not for me to tell the history of Caesar's Gallic wars. Suffice it to say that in eight years he had penetrated what is now Switzerland, France, Germany and England. Everywhere he left monuments of his greatness in the way of splendid highways, baths, aqueducts and temples. Colonies of settlers from the packed population of Rome followed the victors.
An army left to itself after conquest will settle down to riot and mad surfeit, but this man kept his forces strong by keeping them at work—discipline was never relaxed, yet there was such kindness and care for his men that no mutiny ever made head.
Caesar became immensely rich—his debts were now all paid—the treasure returned to Rome did the general coffers fill, his name and fame were blazoned on the Roman streets.
When he returned he knew, and had always known, it would be as a conquering hero. Pompey and Crassus did not wish Caesar to return. He was still governor of Gaul and should stay there. They made him governor—he must do as they required—they sent him his orders. "The die is cast," said Caesar on reading the message. Immediately he crossed the Rubicon.
An army fights for a leader, not a cause. The leader's cause is theirs. Caesar had led his men to victory, and he had done it with a comparatively small degree of danger. He never made an attack until every expedient for peace was exhausted. He sent word to each barbaric tribe to come in and be lovingly annexed, or else be annexed willy-nilly. He won, but through diplomacy where it was possible. When he did strike, it was quickly, unexpectedly and hard. The priest was as great a strategist as he was a diplomat. He pardoned his opposers when they would lay down their arms—he wanted success, not vengeance. But always he gave his soldiers the credit.
They were loyal to him.
Pompey and Crassus could not oppose a man like this—they fled.
Caesar's most faithful and trusted colleague was Mark Antony, seventeen years his junior—a slashing, dashing, audacious, exuberant fellow.
Caesar became dictator, really king or emperor. He ruled with moderation, wisely and well. He wore the purple robe of authority, but refused the crown. He was honored, revered, beloved. The habit of the Pontiff still clung to him—he called the people, "My children."
The imperturbable calm of the man of God was upon him. His courage was unimpeachable, but caution preserved him from personal strife. That he could ever be approached by one and all was his pride.
But clouds were beginning to gather.
He had pardoned his enemies, but they had not forgiven him.
There were whisperings that he was getting ready to assume the office of emperor. At a certain parade when Caesar sat upon the raised seat, reviewing the passing procession, Mark Antony, the exuberant, left his place in the ranks, and climbing to the platform, tried to crown his beloved leader with laurel. Caesar had smilingly declined the honor, amid the plaudits of the crowd.
Some said this whole episode was planned to test the temper of the populace.
Another cause of offense was that, some time before, Caesar had spent several months in Alexandria at the court of Cleopatra. And now the young and beautiful queen had arrived in Rome, and Caesar had appeared with her at public gatherings. She had with her a boy, two years old, by name Caesario.
This Egyptian child, said the conspirators, was to be the future Emperor of Rome. To meet this accusation Caesar made his will and provided that his grand-nephew, Octavius Caesar, should be his adopted son and heir. But this was declared a ruse.
The murmurings grew louder.
Sixty senators combined to assassinate Caesar. The high position of these men made them safe—by standing together they would be secure.
Caesar was warned, but declined to take the matter seriously. He neither would arm himself nor allow guards to attend him.
On the Fifteenth of March, B. C. Forty-four, as Caesar entered the Senate the rebels crowded upon him under the pretense of handing him a petition, and at a sign fell upon him. Twenty-three of the conspirators got close enough to send their envious daggers home.
Brutus dipped his sword in the flowing blood, and waving the weapon aloft cried, "Liberty is restored!"
Two days later, Mark Antony, standing by the dead body of his beloved chief, sadly mused:
"Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever lived in the tide of times."
* * * * *
Caesar died aged fifty-six. Mark Antony, his executor, occupying the office next in importance, was thirty-nine.
In point of physique Mark Antony far surpassed Caesar: they were the same height, but Antony was almost heroic in stature and carriage, muscular and athletic. His face was comely: his nose large and straight; his eyes set wide apart; his manner martial. If he lacked in intellect, in appearance he held averages good.
Antony had occupied the high offices of questor and tribune, the first calling for literary ability, the second for skill as an orator. Caesar, the wise and diplomatic, had chosen Mark Antony as his Secretary of State on account of his peculiar fitness, especially in representing the Government at public functions. Antony had a handsome presence, a gracious tongue, and was a skilled and ready writer. Caesar himself was too great a man to be much in evidence.
In passing it is well to note that all the tales as to the dissipation and profligacy of Mark Antony in his early days come from the "Philippics" of Cicero, who made the mistake of executing Lentulus, the step-father of Mark Antony, and then felt called upon forever after to condemn the entire family. "Philippics" are always a form of self-vindication.
However, it need not be put forward that Mark Antony was by any means a paragon of virtue—a man who has been successively and successfully soldier, lawyer, politician, judge, rhetorician and diplomat is what he is. Rome was the ruler of the world; Caesar was the undisputed greatest man of Rome; and Mark Antony was the right hand of Caesar.
At the decisive battle of Pharsalia, Caesar had chosen Mark Antony to lead the left wing while he himself led the right. More than once Mark Antony had stopped the Roman army in its flight and had turned defeat into victory. In the battle with Aristobulus he was the first to scale the wall.
His personal valor was beyond cavil—he had distinguished himself in every battle in which he had taken part.
It was the first intent of the conspirators that Caesar and Antony should die together, but the fear was that the envious hate of the people toward Caesar would be neutralized by the love the soldiers bore both Caesar and Antony. So they counted on the cupidity and ambition of Antony to keep the soldiers in subjection.
Antony was kept out of the plot, and when the blow was struck he was detained at his office by pretended visitors who wanted a hearing.
When news came to him that Caesar was dead, he fled, thinking that massacre would follow. But the next day he returned and held audience with the rebels.
Antony was too close a follower of Caesar to depart from his methods. Naturally he was hasty and impulsive; but now, everything he did was in imitation of the great man he had loved.
Caesar always pardoned. Antony listened to the argument of Brutus that Caesar had been removed for the good of Rome. Brutus proposed that Antony should fill Caesar's place as Consul or nominal dictator; and in return Brutus and Cassius were to be made governors of certain provinces—amnesty was to be given to all who were in the plot.
Antony agreed, and at once the Assembly was called and a law passed tendering pardon to all concerned—thus was civil war averted. Caesar was dead, but Rome was safe.
The funeral of Caesar was to occur the next day. It was to be the funeral of a private citizen—the honor of a public funeral-pyre was not to be his. Brutus would say a few words, and Antony, as the closest friend of the dead, would also speak—the body would be buried and all would go on in peace.
Antony had done what he had because it was the only thing he could do. To be successor of Caesar filled his ambition to the brim—but to win the purple by a compromise with the murderers! It turned his soul to gall.
At the funeral of Caesar the Forum was crowded to every corner with a subdued, dejected, breathless throng. People spoke in whispers—no one felt safe—the air was stifled and poisoned with fear and fever.
Brutus spoke first: we do not know his exact words, but we know the temper of the man, and his mental attitude.
Mark Antony had kept the peace, but if he could only feel that the people were with him he would drive the sixty plotting conspirators before him like chaff before the whirlwind.
He would then be Caesar's successor because he had avenged his death.
The orator must show no passion until he has aroused passion in the hearer—oratory is a collaboration. The orator is the active principle—the audience the passive.
Mark Antony, the practised orator, begins with simple propositions to which all agree. Gradually he sends out quivering feelers—the response returns—he continues, the audience answers back—he plays upon their emotion, and soon only one mind is supreme, and that is his own.
We know what he did and how he did it, but his words are lost. Shakespeare, the man of imagination, supplies them.
The plotters have made their defense—it is accepted.
Antony, too, defends them—he repeats that they are honorable men, and to reiterate that a man is honorable is to admit that possibly he is not. The act of defense implies guilt—and to turn defense into accusation through pity and love for the one wronged is the supreme task of oratory.
From love of Caesar to hate for Brutus and Cassius is but a step. Panic takes the place of confidence among the conspirators—they slink away. The spirit of the mob is uppermost—the only honor left to Caesar is the funeral-pyre. Benches are torn up, windows pulled from their fastenings, every available combustible is added to the pile, and the body of Caesar—he alone calm and untroubled amid all this mad mob—is placed upon this improvised throne of death. Torches flare and the pile is soon in flames.
Night comes on, and the same torches that touched to red the funeral-couch of Caesar hunt out the houses of the conspirators who killed him.
But the conspirators have fled.
One man is supreme, and that man is Mark Antony.
* * * * *
To maintain a high position requires the skill of a harlequin. It is an abnormality that any man should long tower above his fellows.
For a few short weeks Mark Antony was the pride and pet of Rome. He gave fetes, contests, processions and entertainments of lavish kind. "These things are pleasant, but they have to be paid for," said Cicero.
Then came from Illyria, Octavius Caesar, aged nineteen, the adopted son of Caesar the Great, and claimed his patrimony.
Antony laughed at the stripling, and thought to bribe him with a fete in his honor and a promise, and in the meantime a clerkship where there was no work to speak of and pay in inverse ratio.
The boy was weak in body and commonplace in mind—in way of culture he had been overtrained—but he was stubborn.
Mark Antony lived so much on the surface of things that he never imagined there was a strong party pushing the "Young Augustus" forward.
Finally Antony became impatient with the importuning young man, and threatened to send him on his way with a guard at his heels to see that he did not return.
At once a storm broke over the head of Antony. It came from a seemingly clear sky—Antony had to flee, not Octavius.
The soldiers of the Great Caesar had been remembered in his will with seventy-five drachmas to every man, and the will must stand or fall as an entirety. Caesar had provided that Octavius should be his successor—this will must be respected. Cicero was the man who made the argument. The army was with the will of the dead man, rather than with the ambition of the living.
Antony fled, but gathered a goodly army as he went, intending to return.
After some months of hard times passion cooled, and Antony, Octavius and Lepidus, the chief general of Octavius, met in the field for consultation. Swayed by the eloquence of Antony, who was still full of the precedents of the Great Caesar, a Triumvirate was formed, and Antony, Octavius and Lepidus coolly sat down to divide the world between them.
One strong argument that Antony used for the necessity of this partnership was that Brutus and Cassius were just across in Macedonia, waiting and watching for the time when civil war would so weaken Rome that they could step in and claim their own.
Brutus and his fellow conspirators must be punished.
In two years from that time, they had performed their murderous deed; Cassius was killed at his own request by his servant, and Brutus had fallen on his sword to escape the sword of Mark Antony.
In the stress of defeat and impending calamity, Mark Antony was a great man; he could endure anything but success.
But now there were no more enemies to conquer: unlike Caesar the Great he was no scholar, so books were not a solace; to build up and beautify a great State did not occur to him. His camp was turned into a place of mad riot and disorder. Harpers, dancers, buffoons and all the sodden splendor of the East made the nights echo with "shouts, sacrifices, songs and groans."
When Antony entered Ephesus the women went out to meet him in the undress of bacchanals, while troops of naked boys representing cupids, and men clothed like satyrs danced at the head of the procession. Everywhere were ivy crowns, spears wreathed with green, and harps, flutes, pipes, and human voices sang songs of praise to the great god Bacchus—for such Antony liked to be called.
Antony knew that between Cleopatra and Caesar there had been a tender love. All the world that Caesar ruled, Antony now ruled—or thought he did. In the intoxication of success he, too, would rule the heart that the great Caesar had ruled. He would rule this proud heart or he would crush it beneath his heel.
He dispatched Dellius, his trusted secretary, to Alexandria, summoning the Queen to meet him at Cilicia, and give answer as to why she had given succor to the army of Cassius.
The charge was preposterous, and if sincere, shows the drunken condition of Antony's mind. Cleopatra loved Caesar—he was to her the King of Kings, the one supreme and god-like man of earth. Her studious and splendid mind had matched his own; this cold, scholarly man of fifty-two had been her mate—the lover of her soul. Scarcely five short years before, she had attended him on his journey as he went away, and there on the banks of the Nile as they parted, her unborn babe responded to the stress of parting, no less than she.
Afterward she had followed him to Rome that he might see his son, Caesario.
She was in Rome when Brutus and Cassius struck their fatal blows, and had fled, disguised, her baby in her arms—refusing to trust the precious life in the hands of hirelings.
And now that she should be accused of giving help to the murderer of her joy! She had execrated and despised Cassius, and now she hated, no less, the man who had wrongfully accused her.
But he was dictator—his summons must be obeyed. She would obey it, but she would humiliate him.
Antony waited at Cilicia on the day appointed, but Cleopatra did not appear. He waited two days—three—and very leisurely, up the river, the galleys of Cleopatra came.
But she did not come as suppliant.
Her curiously carved galley was studded with nails of gold; the oars were all tipped with silver; the sails were of purple silk. The rowers kept time to the music of flutes. The Queen in the gauzy dress of Venus reclined under a canopy, fanned by cupids. Her maids were dressed like the Graces, and fragrance of burning incense diffused the shores.
The whole city went down the river to meet this most gorgeous pageant, and Antony the proud was left at the tribunal alone.
On her arrival Cleopatra sent official word of her presence. Antony sent back word that she should come to him.
She responded that if he wished to see her he should call and pay his respects.
He went down to the riverside and was astonished at the dazzling, twinkling lights and all the magnificence that his eyes beheld. Very soon he was convinced that in elegance and magnificence he could not cope with this Egyptian queen.
The personal beauty of Cleopatra was not great. Many of her maids outshone her. Her power lay in her wit and wondrous mind. She adapted herself to conditions; and on every theme and topic that the conversation might take, she was at home.
Her voice was marvelously musical, and was so modulated that it seemed like an instrument of many strings. She spoke all languages, and therefore had no use for interpreters.
When she met Antony she quickly took the measure of the man. She fell at once into his coarse soldier ways, and answered him jest for jest.
Antony was at first astonished, then subdued, next entranced—a woman who could be the comrade of a man she had never seen before! She had the intellect of a man and all the luscious weaknesses of a woman.
Cleopatra had come hating this man Antony, and to her surprise she found him endurable—and more. Besides that, she had cause to be grateful to him—he had destroyed those conspirators who had killed her Caesar—her King of Kings.
She ordered her retinue to make ready to return. The prows were turned toward Alexandria; and aboard the galley of the Queen, beneath the silken canopy, at the feet of Cleopatra, reclined the great Mark Antony.
* * * * *
The subject is set forth in Byron's masterly phrase, "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart; 'tis woman's whole existence." Still, I suppose it will not be disputed that much depends upon the man and—the woman.
In this instance we have a strong, wilful, ambitious and masculine man. Up to the time he met Cleopatra, love was of his life apart; after this, it was his whole existence. When they first met there at Cilicia, Antony was past forty; she was twenty-five.
Plutarch tells us that Fulvia, the wife of Antony, an earnest and excellent woman, had tried to discipline him. The result was that, instead of bringing him over to her way of thinking, she had separated him from her.
Cleopatra ruled the man by entwining her spirit with his—mixing the very fibers of their being—fastening her soul to his with hoops of steel. She became a necessity to him—a part and parcel of the fabric of his life. Together they attended to all the affairs of State. They were one in all the games and sports. The exuberant animal spirits of Antony occasionally found vent in roaming the streets of Alexandria at dead of night, rushing into houses and pulling people out of bed, and then absconding before they were well awake. In these nocturnal pranks, Cleopatra often attended him, dressed like a boy. Once they both got well pummeled, and deservedly, but they stood the drubbing rather than reveal their identity.
The story of their fishing together, and Antony making all the catch has been often told. He had a skilful diver go down every now and then and place a fish on his hook. Finally, when he grew beautifully boastful, as successful fishermen are apt to do, Cleopatra had her diver go down and attach a large Newfoundland salt codfish to his hook, which when pulled up before the company turned the laugh, and in the guise of jest taught the man a useful lesson. Antony should have known better than to try to deceive a woman like that—other men have tried it before and since.
But all this horseplay was not to the higher taste of Cleopatra—with Caesar, she would never have done it.
It is the man who gives the key to conduct in marriage, not the woman; the partnership is successful only as a woman conforms her life to his. If she can joyfully mingle her life with his, destiny smiles in benediction and they become necessary to each other. If she grudgingly gives, conforming outwardly, with mental reservations, she droops, and spirit flagellates the body until it sickens, dies. If she holds out firmly upon principle, intent on preserving her individuality, the man, if small, sickens and dies; if great he finds companionship elsewhere, and leaves her to develop her individuality alone—which she never does. One of three things happens to her: she dies, lapses into nullity, or finds a mate whose nature is sufficiently like her own that they can blend.
Cleopatra was a greater woman, far, than Antony was a man. But she conformed her life to his and counted it joy. She was capable of better things, but she waived them all, as strong women do and have done since the world began. Love is woman's whole existence—sometimes. But love was not Cleopatra's whole existence, any more than it is the sole existence of the silken Sara, whose prototype she was. Cleopatra loved power first, afterward she loved love. By attaching to herself a man of power both ambitions were realized.
Two years had gone by, and Antony still remained at Alexandria. Importunities, requests and orders had all failed to move him to return. The days passed in the routine affairs of State, hunting, fishing, excursions, fetes and games. Antony and Cleopatra were not separated night or day.
Suddenly news of serious import came: Fulvia, and Lucius, the brother of Antony, had rebelled against Caesar and had gathered an army to fight him.
Antony was sore distressed, and started at once to the scene of the difficulty. Fulvia's side of the story was never told, for before Antony arrived in Italy she was dead.
Octavius Caesar came out to meet Antony and they met as friends. According to Caesar the whole thing had been planned by Fulvia as a scheme to lure her lord from the arms of Cleopatra. And anyway the plan had worked. The Triumvirate still existed—although Lepidus had practically been reduced to the rank of a private citizen.
Antony and Caesar would now rule the world as one, and to cement the bond Antony should take the sister of Octavius to wife. Knowing full well the relationship of Antony and Cleopatra, she consented to the arrangement, and the marriage ceremony was duly performed.
Antony was the head of the Roman army and to a great degree the actual ruler. Power was too unequally divided between him and Caesar for either to be happy—they quarreled like boys at play.
Antony was restless, uneasy, impatient. Octavia tried to keep the peace, but her kindly offices only made matters worse.
War broke out between Rome and certain tribes in the East, and Antony took the field. Octavia importuned her liege that she might attend him, and he finally consented. She went as far as Athens, then across to Macedonia, and here Antony sent her home to her brother that she might escape the dangers of the desert.
Antony followed the enemy down into Syria; and there sent for Cleopatra, that he might consult with her about joining the forces of Egypt with those of Rome to crush the barbarians.
Cleopatra came on, the consultation followed, and it was decided that when Caesar the Great—the god-like man whose memory they mutually revered—said, "War is a foolish business," he was right. They would let the barbarians slide—if they deserved punishment, the gods would look after the case. If the barbarians did not need punishment, then they should go free.
Tents were struck, pack-camels were loaded, horses were saddled, and the caravan started for Alexandria. By the side of the camel that carried the queen, quietly stepped the proud barb that bore Mark Antony.
* * * * *
Cleopatra and Antony ruled Egypt together for fourteen years. The country had prospered, even in spite of the extravagance of its governors, and the Egyptians had shown a pride in their Roman ruler, as if he had done them great honor to remain and be one with them.
Caesario was approaching manhood—his mother's heart was centering her ambition in him—she called him her King of Kings, the name she had given to his father. Antony was fond of the young man, and put him forward at public fetes even in advance of Cleopatra, his daughter, and Alexander and Ptolemy, his twin boys by the same mother. In playful paraphrase of Cleopatra, Antony called her the Queen of Kings, and also the Mother of Kings.
Word reached Rome that these children of Cleopatra were being trained as if they were to rule the world—perhaps it was so to be! Octavius Caesar scowled. For Antony to wed his sister, and then desert her, and bring up a brood of barbarians to menace the State, was a serious offense.
An order was sent commanding Antony to return—requests and prayer all having proved futile and fruitless.
Antony had turned into fifty; his hair and beard were whitening with the frost of years. Cleopatra was near forty—devoted to her children, being their nurse, instructor, teacher.
The books refer to the life of Antony and Cleopatra as being given over to sensuality, licentiousness, profligacy. Just a word here to state this fact: sensuality alone sickens and turns to satiety ere a single moon has run her course. Sensuality was a factor in the bond, because sensuality is a part of life; but sensuality alone soon separates a man and a woman—it does not long unite. The bond that united Antony and Cleopatra can not be disposed of by either the words "sensuality" or "licentiousness"—some other term here applies: make it what you wish.
A copy of Antony's will had been stolen from the Alexandria archives and carried to Rome by traitors in the hope of personal reward. Caesar read the will to Senate. One clause of it was particularly offensive to Caesar: it provided that on the death of Antony, wherever it might occur, his body should be carried to Cleopatra. The will also provided that the children of Cleopatra should be provided for first, and afterward the children of Fulvia and Octavia.
The Roman Senate heard the will, and declared Mark Antony an outlaw—a public enemy.
Erelong Caesar himself took the field and the Roman legions were pressing down upon Egypt. The renegade Mark Antony was fighting for his life. For a time he was successful, but youth was no longer his, the spring had gone out of his veins, and pride and prosperity had pushed him toward fatty degeneration.
His soldiers lost faith in him, and turned to the powerful name of Caesar—a name to conjure with. A battle had been arranged between the fleet of Mark Antony and that of Caesar. Mark Antony stood upon a hillside, overlooking the sea, and saw the valiant fleet approach, in battle-array, the ships of the enemy. The two fleets met, hailed each other in friendly manner with their oars, turned and together sailed away.
On shore the cavalry had done the same as the soldiers on the sea—the infantry were routed.
Mark Antony was undone—he made his way back to the city, and as usual sought Cleopatra. The palace was deserted, save for a few servants. They said that the Queen had sent the children away some days before, and she was in the mausoleum.
To the unhappy man this meant that she was dead. He demanded that his one faithful valet, known by the fanciful name of Eros, should keep his promise and kill him. Eros drew his sword, and Antony bared his breast, but instead of striking the sword into the vitals of his master, Eros plunged the blade into his own body, and fell at his master's feet.
At which Mark Antony exclaimed, "This was well done, Eros—thy heart would not permit thee to kill thy master, but thou hast set him an example!" So saying, he plunged his sword into his bowels.
The wound was not deep enough to cause immediate death, and Antony begged the gathered attendants to kill him.
Word had been carried to Cleopatra, who had moved into her mausoleum for safety. This monument and tomb had been erected some years before; it was made of square blocks of solid stone, and was the stoutest building in Alexandria. While Antony was outside the walls fighting, Cleopatra had carried into this building all of her jewelry, plate, costly silks, gold, silver, pearls, her private records and most valuable books. She had also carried into the mausoleum a large quantity of flax and several torches.
The intent was that, if Antony were defeated and the city taken by Caesar, the conqueror should not take the Queen alive, neither should he have her treasure. With her two women, Iras and Charmion, she entered the tomb, all agreeing that when the worst came they would fire the flax and die together.
When the Queen heard that Antony was at death's door she ordered that he should be brought to her. He was carried on a litter to the iron gate of the tomb; but she, fearing treachery, would not unbar the door. Cords were let down from a window above, and the Queen and her two women, with much effort, drew the sorely stricken man up, and lifted him through the window.
Cleopatra embraced him, calling him her lord, her life, her king, her husband. She tried to stanch his wound, but the death-rattle was already in his throat. "Do not grieve," he said; "remember our love—remember, too, I fought like a Roman and have been overcome only by a Roman!"
And so holding him in her arms, Antony died.
When Caesar heard that his enemy was dead, he put on mourning for the man who had been his comrade and colleague, and sent messages of condolence to Cleopatra. He set apart a day for the funeral and ordered that the day should be sacred, and Cleopatra should not be disturbed in any way.
Cleopatra prepared the body for burial with her own hands, dug the grave alone, and with her women laid the body to rest, and she alone gave the funeral address.
Caesar was gentle, gracious, kind. Assurances came that he would do neither the city nor the Queen the slightest harm.
Cleopatra demanded Egypt for her children, and for herself she wished only the privilege of living with her grief in obscurity. Caesar would make no promises for her children, but as for herself she should still be Queen—they were of one age—why should not Caesar and Cleopatra still rule, just as, indeed, a Caesar had ruled before!
But this woman had loved the Great Caesar, and now her heart was in the grave with Mark Antony—she scorned the soft, insinuating promises.
She clothed herself in her most costly robes, wearing the pearls and gems that Antony had given her, and upon her head was the diadem that proclaimed her Queen. A courier from Caesar's camp knocked at the door of the mausoleum, but he knocked in vain.
Finally a ladder was procured, and he climbed to the window through which the body of Antony had been lifted.
In the lower room he saw the Queen seated in her golden chair of state, robed and serene, dead. At her feet lay Iras, lifeless. The faithful Charmion stood as if in waiting at the back of her mistress' chair, giving a final touch to the diadem that sat upon the coils of her lustrous hair.
The messenger from Caesar stood in the door aghast—orders had been given that Cleopatra should not be harmed, neither should she be allowed to harm herself.
Now she had escaped!
"Charmion!" called the man in stern rebuke. "How was this done?"
"Done, sir," said Charmion, "as became a daughter of the King of Egypt."
As the woman spoke the words she reeled, caught at the chair, fell, and was dead.
Some said these women had taken a deadly poison invented by Cleopatra and held against this day; others, still, told of how a countryman had brought a basket of figs, by appointment, covered over with green leaves, and in the basket was hidden an asp, that deadliest of serpents. Cleopatra had placed the asp in her bosom, and the other women had followed her example.
Caesar, still wearing mourning for Mark Antony, went into retirement and for three days refused all visitors. But first he ordered that the body of Cleopatra, clothed as she had died, in her royal robes, should be placed in the grave beside the body of Mark Antony.
And it was so done.
Some have narrowed their minds, and so fettered them with the chains of antiquity that not only do they refuse to speak save as the ancients spake, but they refuse to think save as the ancients thought. God speaks to us, too, and the best thoughts are those now being vouchsafed to us. We will excel the ancients!
The wise ones say with a sigh, Genius does not reproduce itself. But let us take heart and remember that mediocrity does not always do so, either. Men of genius have often been the sons of commonplace parents—no hovel is safe from it.
The father of Girolamo Savonarola was a trifler, a spendthrift and a profligate. Yet he proved a potent teacher for his son, pressing his lessons home by the law of antithesis. The sons of dissipated fathers are often temperance fanatics.
The character of Savonarola's mother can be best gauged by the letters written to her by her son. Many of these have come down to us, and they breathe a love that is very gentle, very tender and yet very profound. That this woman had an intellect which went to the heart of things is shown in these letters: we write for those who understand, and the person to whom a letter is written gives the key that calls forth its quality. Great love-letters are written only to great women.
But the best teacher young Girolamo had was Doctor Michael Savonarola, his grandfather, who was a physician of Padua, and a man of much wisdom and common-sense, besides. Between the old man and his grandchild there was a very tender sentiment, that soon formed itself into an abiding bond. Together they rambled along the banks of the Po, climbed the hills in springtime looking for the first flowers, made collections of butterflies, and caught the sunlight in their hearts as it streamed across the valleys as the shadows lengthened. On these solitary little journeys they usually carried a copy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and seated on a rock the old man would read to the boy lying on the grass at his feet. In a year or two the boy did the reading, and would expound the words of the Saint as he went along.
The old grandfather was all bound up in this slim, delicate youngster, with the olive complexion and sober ways. There were brothers and sisters at home—big and strong—but this boy was different. He was not handsome enough to be much of a favorite with girls, nor strong enough to win the boys, and so he and the grandfather were chums together.
This thought of aloofness, of being peculiar, was first fostered in the lad's mind by the old man. It wasn't exactly a healthy condition. The old man taught the boy to play the flute, and together they constructed a set of pipes—the pipes o' Pan—and out along the river they would play, when they grew tired of reading, and listen for the echo that came across the water.
"There are voices calling to me," said the boy looking up at the old man, one day, as they rested by the bank.
"Yes, I believe it—you must listen for the Voice," said the old man.
And so the idea became rooted in the lad's mind that he was in touch with another world, and was a being set apart.
"Lord, teach me the way my soul should walk!" was his prayer. Doubt and distrust filled his mind, and his nights were filled with fear. This child without sin believed himself to be a sinner.